Postcard from Voghera, Italy

Cathedral and Piazza del Duomo, Voghera, Italy @PennySadler 2103

Piazza del Duomo, Voghera, Italy

Surrounded by vineyards, set amidst rolling hills crowned with ancient castles, and steeped in history, Voghera is located in one of most beautiful regions of Italy and definitely worth a visit.

I chose Voghera as my base camp on a recent trip to Italy. The central location in Lombardia (on one of the main train arteries) allowed me to travel out for day trips to Milan, Pavia, Genoa, and many points in between. I enjoyed staying in a smaller town that was not overrun by tourists, and thus had plenty of opportunities to practice speaking Italian.

The Italian Lakes are an easy ninety minute drive from Voghera. You can get there by train, but it’s a bit of an ordeal, and luckily I didn’t need to do that. A car is definitely the transportation mode of choice around the lakes.

Because of its strategic position in northwest Italy, Voghera has been ruled by various countries and kingdoms – the Romans, the French, and Austrians have all occupied and influenced the history and landscape of Voghera. Napolean once made Voghera his base camp and stayed at Palazzo Dattilini on Via Emilia.

Cathedral del Duomo, Voghera, Italy @PennySadler 2013

Piazza del Duomo is the place to begin a visit to Voghera. Like most towns in Italy, it is the center of civic life. Here you can find shops, restaurants, bars, and of course gelaterias. It’s a wonderful place to sit in a small cafe like Barocco for an apertivo or take a gelato at Britz, and immerse yourself in the local culture and language.

I like the wide expansive feeling of this piazza, and the pastel and ochre colors of the old palazzos that make up the perimeter. Most of these buildings are now government offices, such as City Hall and the Mayor’s office.

I think the charm of Voghera can best be observed in the wide variety of architecture, from the tenth century Castello to the seventeenth century Cathedral del Duomo. Even the more modern buildings are colorful, and display window boxes with seasonal flowers and herbs. I think it’s a sign of a town that is proud of its heritage – and that feels like a nice place to me.

Piazza del Duomo, Voghera, Italy @PennySadler 2013

Related posts:

http://adventuresofacarryon.com/2013/07/08/hungry-top-gelato-spots-in-lombardia/

All material copyright PennySadler 2013. All rights reserved.

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Postcard: Duomo di Milano

Milano Duomo, Italy, @PennySadler 2013

As with all incredible wonders, there are stunning moments and bits of blase. I felt both, on a recent visit to the Duomo di Milano.

When you’re in Milan, take the metro to Piazza del Duomo. As you walk up the steps you’ll see it before you reach the top of the stairway. My first thought upon seeing the Duomo was, “Holy shit!” It’s unbelievably wonderful.

The duomo is the center of a buzz of activity: tourists with their cameras and umbrellas, musicians busking in the shadow of the duomo, businessmen and women hurrying by, oblivious to the beauty around them – and of course those nasty pigeons that seem to flock around every major monument.

The Duomo was conceived to be the largest church in the world, and took centuries to complete. There are over 135 spires, 95 gargoyles, and 3,159 statues illustrating stories from the Bible, the construction of the Duomo, and the history of Milan. You could study this church for a lifetime. If you’re like me, your eyes will never rest for more than thirty seconds on any one detail; instead, darting from one scene to the next, trying (unsuccessfully) to make sense of it all.

The inside? Meh. I’ve been inside a lot of churches in Italy (churches being one of my favorite forms of architectural and artistic expression), and the inside of the duomo is dark and danky – depressing really – quite a contradiction to the outside. There are a couple of tables set up as stand in altars for those who wish to light a candle, and scaffolding everywhere. There is a lift parked inside (the place is massive), and the glass pyramid gift shop just seems weird and distracting. I read that there are some important works of art inside, but I wasn’t motivated to seek them out.

I am not a huge fan of religious art, therefore I rarely go around trying to see all the things that are supposed to be so fab…because in Italy, everything is fab! I just go for what I like and I don’t like dark, so I was done with the inside the minute I stepped in, but forced myself to walk through. One regret, I wish I’d taken the lift to the top. I went to lunch instead. LOL

After a quick walk around the entire interior perimeter, I couldn’t wait to get back into the Italian sunlight and the drama in the piazza – one of the best people watching spots in the world, dominated by one of the most impressive and grandest churches in the world.

Tips for visiting the Duomo:

There is a strictly enforced dress code. No tank tops, shorts, short skirts, or dresses. I saw a young guy in a tank top turned away, and I was stopped for an inspection of my hemline (that was a first!).

Entrance is free for individuals, but there is a fee for groups.
Though there are a gazillion people and you think you’ll wait in line forever, it moves very quickly.

If you want to take photographs inside, pay 2 euros for a wristband.

You can also visit the rooftop and walk amongst the spires. There’s a small fee of 13 euros if you take the elevator, and 7 euros if you chose to walk the 250 steps to the top.

All materials copyright Penny Sadler 2013. All rights reserved.

Postcard: Sant’ Ignazio, Rome

Sant’Ignazio, or Saint Ignatius of Loyola, is a beautiful little church in Piazza Sant’Ignazio, Rome. I passed it about a thousand times before I ever went inside.

Chiesa Sant' Iganzio, Rome, Italy @PennySadler 2013

Piazza Sant’Ignazio was designed to resemble a stage ,with exits on either side. It’s a quiet and pretty piazza, situated between the Pantheon and Via del Corso. Every time I see it, I always feel a little like I’ve entered another time or place. It has a very distinct atmosphere that speaks of something old world and elegant.

The interior ceiling frescoes, painted by Jesuit Andrea Pozzo in 1685, are a masterful optical illusion, creating the effect of a dome – when in fact the ceiling is flat!

The exterior, designed by architect Orazio Grassi in a baroque style, holds no clues to the beauty of the interior, nor do these photographs do it justice. Yet another place I will have to add to my list of things to see and do – again, in Rome.

Ceiling of St. Ignazio by Andrea Pozzo
There are usually notices posted here about upcoming concerts of classical music, so if that’s your thing, keep your eyes open when you are in the area.

Sant’Ignazio
Via del Caravita, 8a, 00186 Roma, Italy

All materials ©PennySadler 2013. All rights reserved.

Postcard: Panzano in Chianti

Panzano in Chianti @PennySadler 2013 all rights reserved

Santa Maria Asunta

Panzano is located in the region of Chianti, famous for the beautiful scenery: winding hills, stone farmhouses, tall cypress trees, and of course, the famous Chianti Classico wines.

Architecturally it is mostly a new town, though there are a few remains of Roman ruins, the old castello, and the church, Santa Maria Assunta, which crowns the hill in the old part of the town. The church was built in the 14th century over the ruins of another church.

In this photograph, you see the perspective looking up the hill toward Santa Maria Assunta. There are local residences and business on each side of the street. This is the oldest part of Chianti and though small, very very charming.

It’s a lovely spot to locate yourself for a vacation in the Tuscan countryside as you can easily reach Siena, Florence, or Lucca from Panzano. You’ll need a car to really see the countryside, or you can hire a driver, and just sit back and enjoy the scenery. You can also take the bus from Panzano to Florence. Be sure to check the schedules carefully as they change depending on the season.

Panzano is also known for two important festivals each year. April 25 is Festa della Stagion Buona, Italy’s national holiday and the beginning of “the good season.”

The other is Vino al Vino the wine festival held the third weekend in September. The dates for 2013 are September 12 – 15. The festival is held in Piazza Bucciarelli, and includes live jazz music and, of course, tastings of the local wines.

For more about Panzano you may like my post Panzano in Pictures.

All materials copyright PennySadler 2013. All rights reserved.

Postcard: Juxtaposition of Art and Religion

Art installation by Steinunn Thorarinsdottir @PennySadler 2013 Arts District Dallas Texas

Arts District, Dallas, Tx

Picture this: A foggy morning in downtown Dallas – and figures, sculpted from cast iron and aluminum, by Icelandic sculptor Steinunn Thorarinsdottir. I was completely unaware that this art space even existed, and happened upon it one magical morning when the fog beckoned me outside with my camera.

I like the way the fog adds a mystical element. The standing figures seem to be looking toward the heavens (symbolized by the church), while the seated figures (arms folded, eyes closed) appear to be disconnected from everything around them.

The church in the background is Cathedrale Sanctuario de Guadalupe (Cathedral Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe), the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas. The first cornerstone was laid in 1898. The bell tower was not completed until 2005, when the entire church received a makeover as part of the Dallas Arts District project.

The art installation called Borders and the church are both located in the Dallas Arts District.

How To Make An Italian Neighborhood Your Own

Vicolo del Cedro @PennySadler 2013

Typical street in Trastevere

I first discovered Trastevere in 2009. I rented a room in an old apartment building without air- conditioning. It was here that I learned to do as the Romans do – luxuriate in long lunches, take a nap in the heat of the day, and generally enjoy life more. In Trastevere, I learned about “la dolce far niente,” the sweetness of doing nothing.

I’ve returned to Trastevere many times since that first stay. I fell in love with the narrow, winding cobblestone streets, the warm terra cotta colors of the buildings, the friendly people, and the fact that it’s a real neighborhood where I can find everything I need within a few blocks.

San Cosimato, Trastevere @PennySadler 2013

Market at Piazza San Cosimato

@PennySadler 2013 Piazza San Cosimato, Trastevere

Piazza San Cosimato

I always return to the same internet cafe (I don’t travel with a computer in Europe), organic and
gluten-free market, and shop at the open air produce market in Piazza San Cosimato. In this way I get a tiny taste of what life would be like if lived in this neighborhood in Rome. Ocourse if I was living there,  I doubt I’d spend my days walking around with my camera and following those medieval winding streets wherever I fancy, but, non si sa mai, you never know.

I got to know the guy who made my cappuccino in the morning and my spritz in the afternoon, and other people in the neighborhood who recognize me to this day.

cafe in Trastevere @PennySadler 2013

Taking an espresso Italian style

@PennySadler 2013 Ponte Sisto Bridge

View of Piazza Trilusa

Trastevere means trans Tiber or across the river. It has always been home to craftsmen, artists, and immigrants. In fact, many of the people I meet who have lived there for decades are expats, and tell me they can’t imagine living anywhere else in Rome.

Today there are, of course, lots of tourists. Trastevere is well known for great restaurants, pubs, and nightlife, and believe me, at night it is packed. The older part of the area around Via della Scala and Piazza Trilusa, can be quite mad with people.

But during the day the streets are relatively quiet, and locals go about their business and their work. It’s not uncommon to find an open doorway to a craftsman shop and they don’t seem to mind if you take a peek inside.

Mohsan Kosarasafir's shop in Trastevere, @PennySadler 2013

Instrument makers shop Vicolo del Cedro

Here are some ideas for things to see and do in Trastevere, whether you stay a day, a week, or longer.

There are several important churches in Trastevere: Santa Cecilia, Santa Maria and San Francesco a Ripa.

@PennySadler 2013

Basilica Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome

Piazza and Basilica Santa Maria in Trastevere is the first church in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary and probably the oldest church in Rome. You will recognize it by the distinctive Romaneque bell tower – and beautiful mosaics on the front glimmering in the sun.  The piazza is a central meeting point in Trastevere, and a great people watching spot. Watch out for drunks and beggars in the evening. Generally harmless, but can be annoying.

Santa Cecila is an 18th century remodel of a medieval church. It is named for St. Cecilia (the patron saint of music), who was martyred here in the 3rd century. Inside you will find the tomb of Santa Cecilia sculpted by Stefano Maderno, and some fragments of Pietro Cavallini’s fresco, The Last Judgement. I haven’t seen this one yet, but it’s on my list.

San Francesco a Ripa: this rather nondescript church houses Bernini’s famous sculpture Beata Ludovia Albertoni. Just go see it.

San Francesco a Ripa, Trastevere @PennySadler 2013

Piazza San Francesco a Ripa

The Museo di Roma in Trastevere. In May, this museum hosts an exhibition of World Press photographs. Other photographs and art in the permanent collection focus on depicting life in Rome from the 1950’s to the present. If you love photography, this is the place for you. I went to an exhibit last year that permanently affected the way I take photographs today. http://en.museodiromaintrastevere.it/il_museo/la_collezione

The Gianicolo or Janiculum Hill is above Trastevere – a bit of a climb, but well worth the effort. Here you have the best views of the city and in my opinion one of the most romantic spots in Rome. Take a date if you can.

Farmacia Santa Maria della Scala – a true 17th century pharmacy now a museum and operated by monks. It’s never been open when I’m there, but I keep trying.

Eat gelato! My favorite place in Trastevere is Bar Checco. Located at Via Benedetta 7.

Relax! at a typical Roman cafe while enjoying an espresso or a drink and watch the world go by.
I’ve got several good choices and there are many more.

@PennySadler 2013

Cafe Maurizio in Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere great views of the Piazza and the mosaics on the front of the Basilica.

Cafe San Calisto: Piazza San Calisto, basically adjacent to Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere.
Traditional Roman style bar and cafe.

Ombre Rose: Piazza Sant Egidio across from the Museo di Roma. A pretty spot with trees and a funky artsy vibe. Always lots of people sitting outside here.

&#64'PennySadler 2013

Bubble maker, Santa Maria di

@PennySadler 2013 Da Lucia Rome, Italy

Da Lucia

Eat! There are loads of good restaurants in Trastevere and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a bad meal here. A few ideas are:

Ivo’s for pizza. The place is always packed. Call ahead. Via San Francesco a Ripa.

Da Lucia. A traditional Roman restaurant also always packed. After my fifth trip I finally got in there one night without a reservation. Cacio e pepe is a must. I also had a delicious cheese omelet. Weird I know, but it tasted great with the pasta and wine. Vicolo del Mattonato.

Isola Sicilia. I’ve been here numerous times and always like it. Nice size portions of food, very fresh. If you like seafood this place is very reliable. A wee bit pricey but delicious.
Via Garibaldi.

Isole di Sicilia @PennySadler 2013

Isole di Sicilia

Walk! Trastevere is a great place for walking, as auto traffic is restricted in most areas. There are charming little local artisinal shops, and one of kind things you’ll find no where else. I love walking in Trastevere (even though a few times I thought my feet were permanently broken by the cobblestones). It has a feeling of a small village where people know their neighbors and everyone says hello. It feels like home to me.

@PennySadler 2013 Trastevere

“La dolce far niente”

Love Rome? Not sure? Read Roman Holiday.

All materials ©Penny Sadler 2012 – 2013

Postcard – Altar Candles

Altar candles ©pennysadler 2013 Adventuresofacarryon.com

For those of you reading who don’t know, one of the biggest news stories this past week has been the election of a new pope to head the Roman Catholic Church. Yesterday it was announced that the cardinals had elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit from South America, to be Pope Francis. He is the first pope from the Americas and the first non-European pope in 1200 years. He also happens to be the first ever, pope Francis. Though he is from Buenos Aires, his parents were Italian immigrants. I love Rome and I wish I could be there now to experience the energy and excitement of this historical moment in time.

The candles you see in the photograph are traditional altar votives found in Catholic churches. I’m a big fan of real candles and not the electric replacements you see so often now.
Though this is not a religious blog, it just seems like the right time to share this photograph.

All materials copyright Penny Sadler 2012 – 2013